The Power of Perception – Israel, Oil, and Other Stuff

7 06 2010

This is a continuation of my previous post about the oil spill. Someone was kind enough to comment and I have so much to say, I needed a whole post to respond and elaborate on the topic.

For many, this photo sums up everything they feel about the Bush administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina. It’s not fair, but it’s the nature of the game. Hurricane Katrina – from the evacuation through to the rebuilding (still in progress, BTW) – was bungled every which way until it was nothing short of a boondoggle, but one man, George W. Bush could not have single-handedly wrecked it no matter how hard he tried. I’m not say he didn’t mess up, I simply stating the fact that he wasn’t the only one. There were plenty of mistakes made by a whole bunch of people who did a shoddy job thinking that somewhere along the line someone would pick up the slack and no one did – administratively speaking, that is. There are big-hearted individuals and groups that have done incredible work. There are some that still are working down there.
As for that picture of President Bush the Younger peering down at a devastated New Orleans from Air Force One, it isn’t all that it seems. Yes, he flew over and didn’t land to see the true plight of the citizens, but there was a very good, practical reason. When Air Force One shows up, it’s not just an ordinary day in the neighborhood. The Secret Service has to work alongside local law enforcement and, given the totality of the destruction of the infrastructure and such, those agencies would have run the risk of not being there to protect the local population if they were devoting what resources they had to providing the level of protection a presidential visit requires. They decided the risk wasn’t worth taking. See, it’s quite a valid reason, but when people are suffering and dying, reasons for not doing things that are seen as helpful all sound a bit like cop outs.

This is currently the image of Obama and the oil spill. While not entirely reassuring, he is there on the beach and that’s something. If an image comes along that carries more emotion – one of an oil-soaked wetland littered with dean animals, or something like that – then he will hear more cries that he hasn’t done enough. He still can’t go and fix the well himself or make all the oil disappear, but he is doing what little he can.

In other news, last week Israeli commandos were involved in a violent incident while boarding a Turkish aid vessel attempting to break the blockade Israel has imposed upon the Gaza Strip. I’m not going to try to piece together what happened that night on that dark, crowded ship. All we know is that something went very wrong, people died, and many were injured at the hands of military personnel. The image of elite troops killing and wounding civilians is almost universally unpalatable. The result – serious discussions all over the world about the efficacy and ethical implications of the Israeli policy regarding Gaza. Usually, such dialogues result in fierce accusations of the people, groups, or countries involved being “anti-Israel” or “pro-terrorist”, but this time, under these conditions is seems as though we might be able to cut through the bullfunky and get to the point. Some in Israel itself are calling for a review of the way Israel handles Gaza. If you’re wondering where the US stands, the Secretary of State issued the following statement.

Just a note, this is not a picture from that press briefing, it's a picture from her October 2009 visit to Israel. Why didn't I use a picture from the briefing? Because the briefing was supposed to be about her bilateral meeting with the Foreign Minister of Romania and I wanted an US/Israel image. It was all for aesthetics.

MR. CROWLEY: On his last day of covering the State Department, Nick Kralev of The Washington Times.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, Nick.

QUESTION: Hello.

SECRETARY CLINTON: We should sing Auld Lang Syne or something. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, thank you very much even without doing it.

Madam Secretary, I’d like to ask you a couple things about the Israeli situation which, as you know, is getting more and more serious by the day. I know there are many unknowns at this point, but do you accept Israel’s argument of self-defense? And do you think that the investigation should be done by Israel or by a third independent party, as other Security Council members have said?

And more broadly, we all know there are so many moving pieces to this. There’s Turkey, there’s Israel and in the Palestinians, there’s Iran, there’s Syria. What are the implications in your mind of this situation to the peace process and in the larger issues in the Middle East? Thanks.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Nick, on your last day, you’ve asked a very complicated set of interrelated questions. And let me put it into context as I respond. First, let me say how deeply we regret the tragic loss of life and injuries suffered among those involved in the incident aboard the Gaza-bound ships, and we offer our condolences to the families of the deceased and the wounded.

Turkey and Israel are both good friends of the United States, and we are working with both to deal with the aftermath of this tragic incident.

The United States supports the Security Council’s condemnation of the acts leading to this tragedy. And we urge Israel to permit full consular access to the individuals involved and to allow the countries concerned to retrieve their deceased and wounded immediately. We urge all concerned countries to work together to resolve the status of those who were part of this incident as soon as possible.

We support in the strongest terms the Security Council’s call for a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation. We support an Israeli investigation that meets those criteria. We are open to different ways of assuring a credible investigation, including international participation, and we will continue to discuss these ideas with the Israelis and our international partners in the days ahead.

The situation in Gaza is unsustainable and unacceptable. Israel’s legitimate security needs must be met, just as the Palestinians’ legitimate needs for sustained humanitarian assistance and regular access for reconstruction materials must also be assured.

We will continue to work closely with the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority along with international NGOs and the United Nations to ensure adequate access for humanitarian goods, including reconstruction and building supplies. And we welcome efforts to promote the reunification of Gaza and the West Bank under the legitimate and internationally recognized Palestinian Authority.

Ultimately, the solution to this conflict must be found through an agreement based on a two-state solution negotiated between the parties. This incident underscores the urgency of reaching this goal and we remain committed to working with both sides to move forward these negotiations.

I think the situation from our perspective is very difficult and requires careful, thoughtful responses from all concerned. But we fully support the Security Council’s action last night in issuing a presidential statement and we will work to implement the intention that this presidential statement represents.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much for taking this question.

On an almost-related note, today Helen Thomas, veteran opinion columnist for Hearst Newspapers’ and Dean of the White House Press Corps, retired today over inflammatory remarks about Israel – namely that they should “get the hell out of Palestine,” and “go home.” Obviously, these statements are incendiary to say the very least and especially given the fact that, against all odds, peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians are still set to begin soon. Kudos to George Mitchell. As for Ms. Thomas, she should have, and did, issue a statement of apology. She should not have been made to retire, but it’s fine with me if she chose to do so. She is approaching ninety after all. It is always unfortunate when an illustrious career is ended with a mind-bogglingly stupid comment or action. She broke a lot of ground for women in journalism, but will be remembered, in the short-term anyway, as the old woman who didn’t like Israel. Freedom of speech is protected, but it isn’t always popular and there are some things you just can’t say in public – especially if you’re “somebody”. Sorry, but that’s the way it goes.





Because the World Cup is About to Start – Great Soccer Pics – Politicians

20 05 2010

It almost World Cup time and I cannot wait. I love it. I have created my first of at least two soccer picture montages. Here is what passes for soccer in the political sphere. Some do better than others.

Nelson Mandela

Pictured here in Switzerland in 2004 after the announcement of South Africa winning the bid to host the 2010 World Cup.

Gordon Brown

For someone who always looks like he’s about to fall asleep, he does alright.

Barack Obama

OK, so he’s no Pele. At least he gives it a try.

Michelle Obama

Looks to have more soccer skills than her husband.

Dmitri Medvedev

Not too bad.

David Cameron

He seems to be settling in nicely.

Nicolas Sarkozy

He always looks a little awkward.

Evo Morales

The President of Bolivia actually plays on a local team.

Angela Merkel

Apparently quite the fan, Angela Merkel was quoted in the lead up to the 2006 World Cup as saying that she “had arranged her schedule so that she could watch any match Germany plays, including the final.” Hmmmm… yeah… about that… VIVA AZZURRI!

Tony Blair

Looks good by politician standards… until he tries to kick a ball.

The G5

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mexican President Felipe Calderon, Brazilian President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, South African President Jacob Zuma, and Chinese State Counsellor Dai Bingguo pose with autographed Brazilian national team jerseys.

Joe Biden

He looks lost – like someone handed him that ball and said “Here, hold this and smile.” Still, he gets credit from this soccer fan for even being there. I don’t see Rahm Emanuel, Janet Napolitano, Hillary Clinton, or anyone else in the administration out there, do you? Incidentally, I will be very disappointed if someone doesn’t pick up a soccer ball – or better yet, kick it – for a photo-op between now and the end of the World Cup.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Because idiots play, too.

Silvio Berlusconi

He can give soccer part of the credit for being in office today. He’s President of AC Milan – a well-known team even here in the US – and used the name recognition it gave him to launch a political career which has now made him President of Italy.

Bill Clinton

Pictured here in 1997 getting a lesson from Brazilian soccer legend Pelé. He looks very silly, but he gets credit for trying and also for trying to bring the 2018 or 2022 World Cup to the US. Here is a post I wrote about that very thing.

Dubya

Dubya knows next to nothing about soccer and, for a refreshing change from the actions of politicians in general, he’s totally honest. He was quoted as saying “[A] lot of us grew up not knowing anything about soccer, like me. I never saw soccer as a young boy. We didn’t play it where I was from. It just didn’t exist.” Thanks for being upfront about it, Dubya!


Uhhhh… that’s the wrong sport! Hey, has Dick Cheney been giving you golf lessons again?





“Great” Moments In Modern Politics – the Good, the Bad, and the WTF of Political Photos – Part 2 The Bad – Bad Behavior Edition

13 05 2010

I’ve given the politicians a break these last few weeks, but I’m now back once again for a chuckle at their expense. These time we’re looking at those moments when they forgot cameras exist.

Hand Gestures
Because sometimes we all just feel like flipping somebody off.

Dubya

Karl Rove

Rahm Emanuel

Pickin’ Fights
You try to behave but then somebody starts trouble…


“Say what?”

and it gets to you. You start to get angry.


“Grrrrr!”

They keep talking. They’re ruining your image with the ladies…


*whisper, whisper…*

and you’re getting even angrier.


“GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!”

They get in your way…

and you’re ready to fight.


“Put ’em up!”

All hell breaks loose.

And then…

you’re butt gets kicked.

Who thought giving her a bat was a good idea anyway?!

Lovin’ the Ladies
These guys have no shame!

And while we’re on this subject, what is the deal with Hillary Clinton and all these men recently? Am I the only one who remembers when the very mention of her name supposedly sent men the world over running for the hills protectively clutching their “gentleman berries”? How times do change.


This is actually a bigger deal than it looks since the Secretaries of State and Defense traditionally can’t stand being in the same room with each other.


To be fair, she does tend to make a face that resembles one that would usually accompany a pinch to the derriere, but this one with Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell just seems a little to suspect to me.


Where’s the Secret Service or is there some sort of diplomatic immunity for patting the US Secretary of State on the behind? Haven’t wars been started over less? I have to be honest, I think this picture is quite funny as illustrated here and here.


😯 Wh, wh, what?! 😯

I don’t get it. Ever since I was small, this woman has been called everything but attractive. She hits her sixties, runs for president, loses, and now this?! I don’t know whether to feel nauseous or optimistic.


This is more like the coverage of her that I’ve become used to.

Well, that does it for shots that are merely bad.

Next, stop the magical land of WTFs. (By the way, that’s Dubya and Vladimir Putin in the little car.)





“Great” Moments in Modern Politics – the Good, the Bad, and the WTF of Political Photos – Part 2 The Bad – Silly Faces Edition

10 04 2010

Enough with the nice stuff. It’s time for a montage of our world leaders not looking their best. There’s a wealth of material out there, but I’ve tried to be fair. I’ve tried to avoid, very successfully I feel, to avoid those dreaded “-isms” (sexism, ageism, there are so many -isms). If you find some “-ism” or other that I’ve missed, let me know. I posted good pictures of these people earlier. Now it’s time for some good-natured mockery. I’ve tried to be an equal-opportunity insulter, but people like the Clintons and Dubya had so many more pictures that it’s hard to not look like you’re bashing on them.

***I’m Smiling Because My Handlers Told Me To***
Every politician, no matter how nice they may seem, has a fake smile that they employ when they have to deal with throngs of people whom they do not know and will most likely never see again. So who has the best one?

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Somewhere along the way, someone told Hillary Clinton that she should smile like a cartoon character.

Apparently, they also told her to smile like a chipmunk. This is bad, but in an almost cute way.

Joe Biden

And remember, he’s just a heartbeat away from running the country. Does anyone else feel slightly less safe?

David Miliband

No comment. It’s just that bad.

Dubya

The Odd-Man-Out and no doubt on many levels.

Yulia Tymoshenko

Is anyone else reminded of The Sound of Music?

Rahm Emanuel

“A clue, Sherlock!”

Nicolas Sarkozy

“Je me sens joli. Ah, plus joli.” (Translation – “I feel pretty. Oh, so pretty.”)

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Hillary Rodham Clinton: The Sometimes-Embarrassing Mom of US Politics.

And, my favorite,….
Dmitri Medvedev

сыр! (Translation – “Cheese!”)

***Pouting Is Such Sweet Sorrow***
Anyone who’s pouting looks funny. Political figures pouting is just that much more amusing.

Dubya

Door 1 : Dubya 0

Hillary Rodham Clinton

You know when someone says or does something dumb and you look at them and think “Idiot!” That’s the look.

Barack Obama

“What did the Vice President say now?”

Sarah Palin

That’s advanced level pouting. Nicely done!

Barack Obama

Pouty POTUS.

Angela Merkel

“Er hat gesagt was?!” (Translation – “He said what?!”)

And the King of the Political Pout…
Bill Clinton

Awwww, poor baby!

***Politics FAIL***
This is what happens when the mask of political poise slips just as you’re thinking “Oh, damn!”

John McCain and Ted Kennedy

John McCain and the late Ted Kennedy listening to Joe Biden.

Dubya

One “Bush-ism” too many in that speech.

Bill Clinton

The international gesture of “Not my fault”.

David Miliband

LOL. Just LOL.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

“Ok, I’m gonna grab Bill’s butt now.”

Barack Obama and Joe Biden

Facepalm in 3… 2… 1…

Gordon Brown and Tony Blair

I don’t know who said what, but it looks like it was bad.

Angela Merkel

This was almost my pick, but my choice for this category is…

Hillary Rodham Clinton

because it’s so bad it’s almost endearing and nearly almost cute which is an accomplishment considering the subject. “Cute” and “endearing” aren’t words usually used to describe her.

Un-curb Your Enthusiasm
Running countries and so on is important work, but it can also be tiring.

Bill Clinton

Somebody tell him that looking like that isn’t helping her.

Gordon Brown

I’m not sure if Prime Minister Brown is bored or if that’s his usual expression.

Bill Clinton

Is she holding his hand to keep him from escaping?

Vladimir Putin

Mentally counting up all the places he’d rather be.

Bill Clinton

He simply can’t sit still and be quiet for long periods of time, can he?

Dubya

Nap time.

Bill Clinton

This man has made looking bored an art form, but my favorite bored politician picture is…

Diane Feinstein

Stop talking and let the poor thing go home!

You Can See The Wheels In There Turning
It’s entertaining to watch those with power trying to not look confused when they are… and failing.

David Miliband

Secretary Clinton seems to have no trouble enjoying her maple taffy at a G8 meeting in Quebec Canada, but Foreign Minister Miliband appears to be have been completely flummoxed by the snack food.

Dubya

“Uhhhhhhhhh….”

Hillary Rodham Clinton

“I didn’t just forget my speech. Nope. Not me.”

Joe Biden

Forget something, Joe?

Hillary Rodham Clinton

The (momentarily lost) Secretary of State.

David Miliband

“Huh? Did someone say ‘banana’?”

Dubya

Dubya’s attempt at diplomacy.

David Miliband

“Hmmmmmm……”

Bill Clinton

“Hillary, Sugar, what was I supposed to say again?”

Joe Biden

Mental Vacation.

And now to crown the King of Confusion
Dubya

Honestly, who else could it be?

What?!
Because sometimes even they’re caught by surprise.

John McCain

This type of shot makes me nervous. We’re sure he’s ok, right?

Hillary Rodham Clinton

“What?!”

Nancy Pelosi

I didn’t think her face could show that much expression.

Nicolas Sarkozy

“Ce n’etait pas moi!” (It wasn’t me!”)

Dubya

“Naw!”

Barack Obama

That face is great!

Dubya and John McCain

CPAC unveils the Rush Limbaugh swimsuit calendar.

I can’t decide which of these photo I prefer, but the subject of both is the same.

Joe Biden

In all honesty, is there a more amusing person in DC?

Laughing With You
See? No hard feelings.

Dubya

David Miliband

George H. W. Bush

Bill Clinton

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Gordon Brown

Angela Merkel and Silvio Berlusconi

Joe Biden

Isn’t it nice to see everyone getting along?

Posted for Still4Hill.





“Great” Moments in Modern Politics – the Good, the Bad, and the WTF of Political Photos – Part 1 The Good

18 03 2010

A politician’s image and appearance has been important ever since the 1960 “Great Debate” between JFK and Richard Nixon. Now we live in a world with a constant stream of news on every possible topic. More and more getting involved in politics means giving over nearly every aspect your life to the prying eyes and scrutinizing words of the public at large. Occasionally, a photo comes into existence, whether from an organized shoot or a well-timed candid, the makes you look so fabulous it almost hurts. Then there are those with make you wish to burn every copy of a newspaper within miles and somehow instigate a cable strike. Finally there are those rare gems that are so blatantly bad for your image that even you have to throw your head back and laugh because they are that funny.

Incidentally, yes this was meant to be one big post – the good, the bad, and the WTF – but there was too much good material out there. Trust me, it’ll be worth it. Also, I’m trying to be nice (for a change) and post at least one good picture of anyone I’m posting bad ones of later.

THE GOOD

Looking Like a Leader
Usually these photos involve flags, a sturdy and well-ornamented desk, official seals, government buildings, or some combination of those items. It works best if you’re really photogenic, but even if you’re not you might get one good one. I don’t really have much to snark at with these photos. Don’t worry. You won’t be without my witty repartee for long.


Barack Obama


Ronald Reagan


Bill Clinton


David Miliband, current UK Foreign Minister


Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State under George W. Bush


Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State


Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State under Bill Clinton


Rahm Emanuel


Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (He always looks scary!)


George W. Bush – known on this blog as “Dubya”

Looking Like an Affable Everyman/woman
If you don’t necessarily have the camera’s love on your side that doesn’t mean that your political career is over – in fact it’s often said that politics is show business for ugly people – you just have to find your look. To be honest, the “everyman” or “everywoman” isn’t so much a look as it is a required persona. Think about it. Just look back at the 2008 presidential election and point out the “average” candidate. None of them were middle class by any stretch of the imagination. They’re all rather wealthy to one extent or another. Many had been in national politics for decades. None of them are average or “normal” and yet that is how they have to look, so they show off their spouses, children, and pets, get photographed in t-shirts, baseball caps, and jeans, and say and do thing they think the rest of us say and do – with varying degrees of success. Think of Michelle Obama’s (very successful) fist-bump. When in doubt, hold someone’s baby. That usually works and I’ve expounded upon here


Not much to say really. It’s adorable.


Talk about familial! Nancy Pelosi with her husband and her new grandchild. So sweet it could give you a cavity.


The presidents Bush leaving a small church after services with their wives.


This is Italian President Silvio Berlusconi. While he certainly doesn’t look like an “everyman”, he does look very affable.

What is it about a dog that makes the person with it look so much better than they otherwise would.

Joe Biden and his puppy make a much better picture than the Vice President does on his own.


Is Nixon actually smiling?! Maybe it’s just gas.

There’s a line one has to tread carefully with regards to taking pictures with one’s spouse because you want to appear loving, like Tony and Cherie Blair, and generally want to avoid looking too sexy…

unless your last name is Clinton, apparently.

That’s bordering on too hot for the evening news! I know now that it was taken by Harry Benson but I don’t remember when that picture came out, so when I found it, it took me a minute to figure who was in the picture. I still have trouble believing that woman is Hillary Clinton.

I found this picture from 2004 vaguely reminiscent though (thankfully) far less deserving of a “Do not disturb” sign.

And there they go again. What’s stranger yet is that they’re either like this or awkwardly patting each other on the shoulder.

Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni are known for being very affectionate in public, but they are also French, so I think the rules of political PDA are different for them. This shot is very nice.

Commander and Chief
Visiting military personnel makes most politicians look good.


That’s Gordon Brown, current UK Prime Minister.


This is Angela Merkel, current Chancellor of Germany.


Yes, this is a bit older than the photos I usually use, but it’s a bit of family history. My dad was one of the sailors there. I’m not sure if he’s in the shot or not – I’ll have to ask him. I just thought it was cool.

It’s All About the Beauty of the Moment
Occasionally, some photographer will come along and, even if you are not in the least bit photogenic, they will work their magic and you will look fabulous. Sometimes it’s a big moment, a state dinner or something, but sometimes it’s just the way the light hits you. When something like this happens there is nothing to do but thank your lucky stars.


Bill Clinton is a man who tends to fairly look good in photos. His wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, does not share his luck in that department and never has. She usually looks mediocre at best, but it’s not all bad news though because, when she does take a good photo, it’s a really good one.


I love this so much about this shot – the candles, the lighting, the serene yet intense look she has on her face. It’s really lovely. This one it good, too. She looks so young in this picture. If I hadn’t found it today, I’d have thought in was from her time as First Lady.


This was all about the moment and the words. Ronald McDonald could have been there and it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference as long as the speech was the same.


Think what you want to about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but that picture is great.


What is it with Joe Biden? He can even get Hillary Clinton to loosen up… a little. Can’t we put that skill to use for the good of humankind?


This is current British Foreign Minister David Miliband. I think he’s kind of cute in a nerdy way so, since it’s my blog, I’m posting another picture of him.

I like him better with glasses. Just my opinion.

It’s usually a good thing to stand out in a crowd and a few politicians, usually women, take that quite literally.

Secretary Clinton

Yulia Tymoshenko, former Prime Minister of Ukraine
Sometimes the guys do get in on the act, though.

US President Barack Obama, Italian President Silvio Berlusconi, and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev definitely stand out.


These are just good shots.


She looks tough, but tough is good sometimes. I’ve got a list of world leaders to whom this picture should be emailed to.


It looks like Chancellor Merkel “gets” the modern art in this exhibit in honor of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It’s always good to look like you “get” it.


Remember how I said that there was a saying about politics being show business for ugly people. Well, it’s not just for ugly people. This is former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko

and this is former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin.


It blows my mind that Nancy Pelosi is pushing 70 and her husband’s around that age too. Even with some surgical assistance, it’s hard to believe.


One shot where he looks more like a leader and less like a character on That Mitchell and Webb Look

Black & White
Sometimes a black and white photo can make you look better than any color one can.


Yes, black and white can make you look great…

… but it can’t work miracles. Yeah, I’ve had enough of being nice, it’s time to laugh at these people.